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tv   Nightline  ABC  March 16, 2017 12:37am-1:08am PDT

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tonight a special edition of "nightline." "face to face: finding my father." she's been looking for him her entire life. >> i've always seen ladies walk down the aisle with their father and i never got it. >> turning to an investigative genealogist for answers. but after two misfires -- >> he is not your birth father. it's coming up negative. sorry. >> was she ever going to find him? tonight the heartwarming story -- >> guess what? he is your father. >> he is? >> he is. >> oh, god. i just knew it. >> and the family reunion. >> i can't wait to see him. i can't wait to see him. >> a lifetime in the making. this special edition of "nightline," "face to face:
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finding my father" will be right back.
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this is a special edition of "nightline." "face to face: finding my father." >> good evening. thank you for joining us. amanda holdiness has felt incomplete. raised by a single mother, grandmother, and god parents. she's never known her father and spent years searching for him in vain. tonight her story finally has a
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happy ending. here's abc's elizabeth vargas. >> i'm so nervous right now. i cannot wait until i get that call. >> reporter: amanda holdiness' life is about to change. on the other end of that call -- >> hey, there. >> hey, how are you? >> reporter: someone with an answer to a question she's been asking her whole life. >> are you ready? >> yes, ma'am. >> reporter: who is her father? ♪ happy birthday >> reporter: we started following her quest to find him two years ago. a doting mother herself with her own son making his birthday wishes. moments that hearken back to her own childhood of birthday wishes. wishes that have always been the same.
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to find her dad. >> i wanted to have a father that i would be the apple of his eye. you know, i wanted to be that daddy's girl. >> reporter: her mother had given her a name for the man she believed was amanda's father. but other details were scarce. >> she described him having dark brown hair and i was thinking about elvis. >> reporter: and amanda says she described a man who wasn't thrilled to learn at the time that he was going to be a father. so amanda's single mother moved back home to mississippi to raise amanda with the help of her own family, never to hear from him again. the absence of a father was felt all the time, but especially painful for amanda on her wedding day. >> i've always seen ladies walk down the aisle with their father. and i never got it. >> reporter: so when she saw investigative genealogist pam slaton featured on "20/20," helping people find biological relatives. >> you're so beautiful. >> reporter: she reached out.
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>> we were like amazed how she found long-lost loved ones. >> this is how it happens. my stats are broken up by current, not feeling it, driving me crazy. >> reporter: pam, who is also a consultant for abc news, was confident she could help amanda. so she took on her case, which she thought seemed simple enough. >> all i did was give her five things about where he was from, where he lived when they met -- >> i put in the biological father's name. >> she called me, guess what? i said what? she said, i found him. i just -- i started crying. i said, are you serious? she said, yes. >> reporter: but amanda's happiness is short lived. they did a dna test just to be sure. when i sat down with amanda just a few months later, she says the results were shocking.
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>> it came back saying that he wasn't my father. >> that must have been devastating for you. >> yeah. >> you've been told all your life that this man was your father. and he wasn't. >> no. >> did you want to give up? >> at first i did. >> reporter: pam slaton stuck with her. after the crushing news. she headed down to mississippi to see her in person. >> and we are off! >> reporter: pam also wants to meet with amanda's mother who she hoped could offer a morsel, a memory, something that could help put her on the right path. it would be crucial to get her to talk about when she got pregnant, when she was just 24 years old, living with her sister. she was serving in the national guard. still in school, trying to figure her life out. when she found out she was pregnant. >> when i sit down with her i'll see if she's being genuine and just doesn't really know, or is she trying to keep her from the truth for another reason that we don't know about. >> hi, honey, how are you? >> doing good. >> oh my god, this is beautiful. let me look at you.
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>> i was told i couldn't have any kids. it was a miracle. she was a miracle. >> reporter: amanda's mother reveals she was with more than one man during the time amanda was conceived. >> i was wild when i was young. i guess in a way i was looking for that love too that i didn't have. >> i think it's amazing that you have the courage to sit here and talk about this. i can see you genuinely want to help amanda. i believe that your heart's in the right place. >> reporter: another man comes into focus. amanda's mother offers up samuel skinner. >> samuel, i lived with him before i went to cheyenne. >> you had a relationship with him prior? >> right. >> i will be right back. >> reporter: pam returns with contact information for samuel skinner and the case again appears to be wrapped up. >> i want you to make the phone call. it's scary but i'll get you through it. >> reporter: pam coaches amanda. what she says could make or break her chance to make a connection with her potential birth father. >> i want you to breathe, you're not breathing.
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>> reporter: she goes for it. >> yes, is this samuel skinner? yes, i was wanting to talk to samuel skinner. yes. can you tell him to call amanda? it's a friend of the family. okay, thank you. >> where was he? >> he was unavailable. >> reporter: a few days later the man named samuel skinner does call her back. turns out he's living just down the gulf coast from amanda in louisiana. >> when she started to mention certain people, it clicked. >> who did she mention? >> her mother's name. >> he said, i loved your mama. he said, but we just parted ways. >> reporter: sam says amanda's mom never told him she was pregnant. after all, back then, she didn't think he was the father. so after two months of getting to know each other on the phone -- >> you've waited a long time to get this done. >> yes. >> reporter: amanda and sam will
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meet for the first time. he agrees to do a dna test. >> what's your heart say? >> i'm just -- >> you don't want to say? >[ i really can't say. i just really hope my journey ends here. >> when you met samuel for the first time, what was that like? >> he kept on doing this. and i was like, why are you staring at me like that? he's like, girl, you are a spitting image of your mama. >> no matter how it turns out -- >> reporter: their meeting is just the beginning of the bonding between amanda and the possible father she's always been hoping for. but she's careful not to get her hopes up too high, having already been down this road once before. >> you hope you are her biological dad? >> well, yes, who wouldn't? i mean, want a 30-year-old daughter that's not going to talk back to you no more, have grandkids i can spoil and send
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them home, you know. who wouldn't want that? >> reporter: the test results are in a few weeks later. amanda is at pam's house to find out. the outcome is shocking. >> so, amanda. i know you've been down a long, long road. he is not your birth father. it's coming up negative. sorry. you all right? i know. you've been down a long, tough road. >> okay. >> to have this girl who was so excited to finally put this behind her, and to give her this devastating news that it wasn't a match was not an easy job to do. >> reporter: amanda calls sam, who was anxiously awaiting the news. >> hello?
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>> hey, samuel? >> yeah, this amanda? >> yeah, this is amanda. >> what's going on? >> well -- they told me what the results are with the dna. >> okay. and? >> it's -- not good. i haven't even called mama yet to let her know. >> well, maybe you need to accept it yourself. i'll try and give you fatherly advice. i may not be doing it right. you don't know which way to go now. amanda, go with what you're feeling. i hope you don't stop your search. especially you're going for something you need in life. >> thank you. >> don't let people discourage you. >> reporter: sam tells amanda he's ready to stay in her life even though he's not her birth father. >> take care now. bye-bye. >> thanks. >> that's the second man i've heard say that to her, which speaks to who you are. you have two men that fell in
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love with you and would love to have you as a daughter. >> reporter: overwhelmed, amanda grapples with her feelings. >> i will remain committed to you and getting to the bottom of this, i promise you. on my word, i promise you that i will do everything in my power to help you. >> reporter: the owner of the dna database company that amanda did her tests with offers another possible step. >> if your mother would be willing to do a dna test, we can do what we call a triangulation. >> reporter: it's a hail mary. >> how distant a relative can there be in your data bank? for you to have the beginnings of a thread for pam to follow? >> we need to find a third cousin or closer. we could find siblings of your great grandfather's children's children. which would be lots of people today. >> when "nightline" returns, the key that finally unlocks the answers. >> now are you ready? >> that amanda's wanted her whole life. manda's wanted her whole life.
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my name is amanda and i've never met my father and i want answers. >> reporter: after two devastating false leads, amanda holdiness is still determined to find her biological father. >> it's just -- it's been an emotional roller coaster. >> reporter: now she has new hope. her mother offers her own dna so that her blood relatives will be eliminated from the pool of matches. that investigative genealogist, pam slaton, will search in the database. >> let's see who's sharing this dna.
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it's like searching for a pot of gold, in a weird way. >> reporter: after sifting out amanda's maternal biological relatives, she can now focus only on the paternal dna matches. it leaves her with only two second cousin matches. >> so i had to figure out the common denominator between those matches and i was able to come up with the name, a last name of hurt. >> reporter: a new last name. a huge breakthrough. pam runs with it compiling a list of a half dozen age-appropriate men in wyoming with that last name. she sends amanda the list. >> i want this chapter to be over with. >> reporter: a hopeful amanda jumps on facebook to track down photos of the men. there is one photo that she is drawn to in particular. >> you see the facial features. i mean, you see the lips. >> reporter: she messages that man. and halfway across the country
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in wind-swept eastern wyoming -- >> there i was minding my own business and this thing pops up. >> reporter: a man named larry herot is on the receiving end of her questions. i he tells her, yes, he knew her mom in the 1980s. >> i had one question. was your mother ever in the army national guard? she goes, yes. >> i wanted to cry, i wanted to jump up and down. he actually knows my mother. >> reporter: larry says she dated for a month but he didn't know she had gotten pregnant. >> loved her to death. strong woman. and i appreciated that. the red hair got me. i love redheads. >> reporter: however, amanda's mother vivian says she doesn't remember larry at all. he was a truck driver back then. just as he is today. working out of a small city called casper with four adult children of his own. >> there we go. we're ready to rock and roll, kiddies. >> reporter: now larry herot becomes the third in a list of
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potential fathers to agree to a dna test. >> it's been probably about two and a half weeks since he sent it in. >> reporter: it is an excruciating wait. amanda is about to get the call giving her the latest test results. >> i'm so nervous right now. i cannot wait till i get that call. >> hey, there. >> hey. how are you. >> so are you ready? >> yes, ma'am. >> what's your gut telling you? >> my gut's telling me that he's the one. >> guess what. >> what? >> he is your father. >> he is? >> he is. >> oh my god. >> giving me goosebumps. >> thank you so much. >> you must be so relieved. >> i just knew it.
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you know that gut feeling. i just had that gut feeling that he was the one. >> you never had that before, did you? >> no. >> is he on standby now waiting for the call to come in? >> yes. >> well, then why don't i give you a kiss. >> thank you so much. >> thank you, amanda, love you, honey. >> love you too. bye-bye. oh, god. god, let me call him. >> hello. >> daddy? >> yes, ma'am. >> you're my daddy. >> i am? >> yes. >> yes? >> reporter: they promise to meet soon. >> okay, sweetie. >> okay, love you. >> love you too. >> okay, bye-bye. the chapter's closed now.
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i have a daddy. i can't wait to see him. i can't wait to see him. >> now a new chapter for amanda begins. she and husband mack have traveled to wyoming to meet her dad. >> i know i'll be really happy to see her. and to hold my little girl. i'm tearing up now. just thinking about it. i just can't wait to show her how much i love her. it's going to be good. >> reporter: they are finally about to be face to face. the embrace amanda has waited for for a lifetime. >> finally.
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oh, finally. >> yeah, finally. i have another piece of my heart that has been mended. i knew something was missing. and i finally found it. >> my boy. >> twins, really. >> pretty much. >> i look just like you. i'm telling you. >> reporter: over the next several hours, we were with them. larry literally did not leave amanda's side. >> this is amanda. this is richard. >> reporter: bringing her to work. >> great to meet you. >> hi. >> reporter: later at dinner, amanda would meet her uncle. >> how are you doing? >> doing good. >> reporter: larry momentarily leaves amanda's side so his brother can chat with his newfound niece. >> you've got to move, you've got to trade with me now. >> reporter: that seating arrangement doesn't last long. >> you can sit with your
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daughter. >> reporter: after 32 years apart, these two plan on savoring every moment they can now spend together. >> i'm so happy right now. this is awesome. >> reporter: for "nightline," i'm elizabeth vargas. >> our thanks to elizabeth vargas. we'll be right back.
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finally tonight, it was american writer dennis waitly who said, don't dwell on what went wrong. focus on what happens next. you can see more stories involving investigative genealogist pam slaton online at thank you for watching abc news and as always we're online
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well, they come from our hope and a longing to bring something new into the world. it's fitting, then, that classrooms of children are born every day in northern california --


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